The Major System as a Mental Notebook

The mental notebook you can never lose!

You can use the Major System as a mental notebook. You’ll generally only need to use the first few peg words in the system, so you can make use of this method even if you’ve only memorised the first ten peg words or so. If you haven’t memorised the Major System peg words yet, now’s the time to get down to it!

Now, onto using the Major System as a mental notebook. Like everything else to do with memory, it depends on association and routine. You need to associate things to your peg words, and then, preferably at a set time, transfer them to a more lasting medium, like a physical notebook. So this method is really just for holding information temporarily.

Make notes in your mental notebook

Let’s say you’re driving somewhere and you think of something important about your computer. Without a memory system, it’s likely that you’ll mutter something to yourself along the lines of “I must remember to phone that computer guy about that new hard drive, it doesn’t seem to work quite right”. Fine … saying “I must remember …” is a good idea, but it’s hardly likely to ensure that you do. What you need is to make a note of it. Not recommended when you’re driving!

Driving, make notes in your mental notebook

Even while driving, you can make quick mental notes (as long as you stay safe!)

So (assuming it’s the first mental note you’re making that day), you could go straight to your first peg word, which is ‘tie’ (it is for me, anyway, although you might have chosen a different peg word). Then you associate, or link, the subject of the note (in this case, phoning the computer dealer) with ‘tie’. Maybe you could see yourself holding the phone, and the receiver has a tie tied round it, and the other end of the tie is tied round a miniature computer, or hard drive.

Remember, it’s important to really see this mental picture vividly. You could imagine not just seeing it but actually getting hold of the tie and dangling the tiny hard drive on the end of it, and watching it swing from side to side. Then carry on with what you were focusing on (let’s hope it was your driving)!

Let’s imagine that later on, while standing in a queue, you realise you’ve been meaning to take the dog to the vet for the last day or two. She’s been a bit listless lately and you think it’s time you had her checked out in case it’s a symptom of something bad. And you don’t want to let that situation get any worse just because you keep forgetting to take her to the vet!

Noah in front of the Ark - make notes in your mental notebook

Room for one more?

Okay, so, since you’re not in a position to physically make a note of it, you go to the next peg word, which is ‘Noah’ (the peg word for 2). See yourself taking the dog to Noah (there he is, on the gangplank of the Ark, as usual!), and he makes some humorous remark about the fact that he only accepts animals in pairs (he’s a funny guy, Noah, considering all the work he’s been doing on the Ark lately, not to mention the horrendous weather forecasts he’s been hearing). You explain this is a special case – your dog is unwell and needs some medical attention. “Step right in,” says Noah, “there’s a vet onboard, he looks after all my animals!”, and up the gangplank you all go.

Can you see how important it is to make the scenes come alive? Add a bit of dialogue, maybe a touch of humour, or anything that might make it seem more real. See the expression on Noah’s face (maybe he’s not happy that there’s one more animal to take care of … maybe he’s thrilled that he can save one extra animal … you decide!).

Okay, let’s do one more. Later on, you’re at the gym and you’re enjoying a nice, relaxing sauna. A thought springs to mind (they tend to do that when you’re relaxing and unfocused), and strangely enough you don’t have a notebook on you at the time (the pages tend to get soggy in the heat of the sauna, and anyway, where would you keep it? No, don’t answer that)!

The thought says to you, “Don’t forget to fix that gutter!” You’ve been meaning to fix the gutter since the last time it rained. It was torrential, and the gutter overspilled, with water cascading down the brickwork. You think, “That’s right, I’ll have to get it fixed, I can’t leave it to happen again, it’ll damage the brickwork or cause damp in the walls”, but you know that if you don’t make a note of it it’s likely the thought will get fed up trying to get your attention and just give up and go away.

Make the notes in your mental notebook vivid and memorable

Time for the Major System to step up to the the mark again! Number 3 is represented by Mo, of The Three Stooges, so you have to somehow link Mo to the gutter problem. You could see him up a ladder, trying to fix the gutter, and making a complete mess of it (naturally!). You might see him wobbling on the ladder, holding on tight, and maybe the other two (Curly and Larry) are footing the ladder and making a mess of that too. They’re fighting, slapping each other just like in the old movies, and managing to knock the ladder from side to side in the process.

The Three Stooges and a ladder - featuring in your mental notebook

The Three Stooges plus a ladder … a sure-fire recipe for disaster if ever there was one!

Meanwhile, up top, Mo is panicking. He’s scared of heights and grabs onto the gutter for dear life. As the ladder slips and comes crashing down, with Mo still clinging to it, he pulls the gutter off the wall completely. Now it needs fixing! Boy oh boy, those three …

Will all this take long to think of? No! It came to me quicker than I could type the words onscreen. You’ll see the whole thing, in detail, as though it were a real scene from a Three Stooges movie. And you thought you weren’t very creative?!

So now you’re sitting in the suana, grinning to yourself at the scenes you’re seeing in your mind, and slowly becoming aware that the others are watching you, wondering what’s up. What are you going to say … The Three Stooges are at it again? That’s up to you, but I reckon you should just relax and enjoy your suana now, confident that you won’t forget what you just watched.

Making your mental notebook system work

So where’s this all going? It’s quite simple really. You spent a few moments, at various points in the day, assigning things to your memory peg words. Now you have to take action on them or transfer them to a more enduring medium. You need to make some kind of link to your mental notebook so that you don’t forget to make use of it. This could be as simple as imagining opening your front door and seeing stacks of notes or notebooks in the hall in front of you. That will make you think, “Hey, I’ve got to check my notes!”

your mental notebook - more trusty than paper!

A notebook’s fine, as long as you don’t depend totally on it. That’s where your mental notebook comes in!

This needs to be a regular thing, something that you do automatically, and then you’ll always be ready to check the things you made notes about. Instead of those slippery little thoughts that came to mind during the day escaping your attention, they are now firmly fixed in your mental notebook, and you are used to regularly checking it.

You open your front door and as soon as you step inside you think of number one, ‘tie’ … you see yourself holding the phone and there’s a hard drive attached to it … you have to phone the computer guy (you can do that right away, or make a note of it in your diary/dayplanner/whatever) … number 2 is ‘Noah’ … you see him inviting you aboard the Ark, along with your dog … again, you make a note (a real note) to visit the vet … number 3 is ‘Mo’ … you see The Three Stooges going at it and causing mayhem, and tearing your gutter down in the process … you make a note to fix the gutter.

Your Major System notebook is quick to use

This is a long-winded explanation of something that actually takes just seconds in real life. If you do this on a regular basis you won’t lose track of those important thoughts that appear in your mind and then disappear without trace if they’re not acted on immediately. And the more often you use it, the easier it gets to almost instantly create the images needed to link the items to the numbers.

Don’t forget – make it a habit to link going through your front door with reviewing your mental notes (mentally see notes all over the hall floor, if that helps). Any system is only worthwhile if it’s used properly. Unless you make these things habitual, the whole system fails and you soon stop using it.

The Major System notebook as a study aid

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you using this mental notebook for a more extensive list. Let’s say you’re a student and you’re attending a lecture. While everyone else is studiously taking copious notes (the old way!), you could be linking one important fact to a peg word, followed by linking another fascinating little gem to the next, and so on. It might look like you’re not bothered about taking notes (and the lecturer might wonder about that), but in actual fact you’ll be able to devote much more attention to the lecture.

And when you leave the lecture theatre you could spend ten or fifteen minutes writing clear, precise notes about what you’ve just heard, referring all the time to the vivid notes in your mental notebook. Additionally, your notes will probably be worth a lot more than the scribbled, confused notes made by the other students, since you were free to concentrate more on the lecture.

Since you’re relaxed now and can take a little longer, you might want to make a mind map of the lecture. That way, you’ll see exactly what it consisted of at a glance. And you can add as much detail as you want, or leave it to just a few key words here and there, just enough to jog your much improved memory!

To use your mental notebook successfully, of course, you need to be very familiar with your peg words, but the work you put into that (which isn’t much at all really), will pay you back handsomely, time and time again. This system of note taking gets easier the more you use it, and can be used for the rest of your life.

To learn more about the Major System, take a look at these other pages: learn the Major System basics, learn the Major System Peg Words, and learn the Major System in Pictures.

All the links you need are also in the sidebar >>

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